We have a very special mail column today, in that it is slightly different from my other mail columns! I hope you don't mind. If you do, I'm a still a fake mailman in the future being chased by rogue armies, post-apocalyptic thugs, and god knows what else. I have bigger problems than your feelings.
So yesterday I wrote a small, restrained thinkpiece on why this weekend's episode of the Avengers Assemble cartoon was a crime against humanity and civilization itself. Some people thought this was foolish, and didn't mind telling me so:
It [Avengers Assemble] is probably targeted towards ages 7-12. Why is this even a discussion? Sure, there's good cartoons and bad cartoons; for me, TMNT was the most amazing cartoon in the 80's, but looking back now, it's complete shit and served no other purpose than to sell toys, which it very obviously succeeded at doing. Grown ass men whining about a child's show. Wtf is going on?
I've actually been wanting to answer some form of this question for years now, seeing as I've basically made my career writing hyperbolic, overcritical takedowns of often youth-oriented pop culture, and I hope you don't mind if I take a moment to respond.
Dear Yodelpuppet and all the others who were appalled that I would spend my time and 2,000 words pointing out all the critical flaws of a cartoon clearly intended for kids:
Here's what the fuck is going on. I believe that youth does not equal stupidity. I believe children's entertainment can be and should be good, just like I believe superhero movies can be good, movies based on toys can be good, and anything based on anything you once enjoyed as a kid can and should be good.
We have all seen our share of shit entertainment. I loved He-Man, GI Joe and to a lesser extent Transformers as a kid, but I know they were terrible. I knew they were terrible then, but because we had so little to judge it against, it was also still kind of awesome. Once The Incredible Hulk TV show was considered awesome, even though it was also objectively terrible. Same with the original Battlestar Galactica, movies like The Shadow, and all that other stuff. This stuff was the best we had.
But nowadays we have good superhero movies. A plethora of great cartoons. Great comics, great TV shows, great versions of pretty much anything we used to love no matter how crappy they once were. And we know now that there's the potential for anything to be good.
If you are content with having a shitty TMNT movie because the TMNT cartoon you watched as a kid was shitty, I can't stop you from feeling that way. But just like the TMNT cartoons have generally improved over the years, I know the movies can improve as well, and I'm crazy enough to think they should. I think there are other TMNT fans who also want to see a good TMNT movie as opposed to a shitty one. And I think they deserve it, or at least an honest attempt at making one.
And so I fight for these people. Now, my only skills are writing and being an asshole (although I also mix a decent cocktail), so that's what I have to work with. So while other people my age are critiquing important grown-up movies and shows and arguing about art and music and things, I'm watching kids cartoons and writing massive, hate-filled screeds about them if I think they fail to live up to the quality we now know is possible.
Am I a hero? Probably not. But if you were apparently in charge of these sorts of things we'd still have David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury, so forgive me if I continue fighting what I consider to be the good fight. As for whether writing 2,000 words screaming about a kids cartoon constitutes a good use of my time, I can only answer this: I got paid to write 2,000 words screaming about a kids cartoon. It was ABSOLUTELY a great use of my time. And hey, maybe, just maybe, the next time Marvel make a cartoon, they try a little harder. [drops mic]
We now resume your regularly scheduled mail column.
To the Maximoff
Dear Mr. Postman,
I'm sure you were just as excited as we all were to finally see "The Twins" on the big screen during the post-credit sequence of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
However it got me thinking, if Magneto is their father where did Pietro and Wanda's last name Maximoff come from?
The short answer is that Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and Pietro (Quicksilver) were raised by a couple named Django and Marya Maximoff, who were the ones who actually named them. Obviously, this being comics, the truth is ridiculously more complicated.
Magneto — who's real name is Max Eisenhardt, by the way — met his childhood friend Magda when they were in Auschwitz together. They escaped, married, and had a daughter named Anya. Later, Max changed his identity to Eric Lensherr so he could live more easily among Magda's Roma people. However, they still moved to the Soviet Union, where Eric found work and then used his magnetic powers for the first time by hurling a crowbar at his new boss' head because he thought the guy wasn't paying him a fair wage. When Eric returned to the inn his family was staying at, he discovered it was on fire, but the KGB arrived and started beating up pre-Magneto before he could save his daughter, and she fell from the inn's second floor, burning to death, right in front of him. Eric used his powers to brutally murder the KGB agents, and Magda, who didn't die in the fire but was understandably upset at the death of her daughter and her husband's terrifying powers, fled.
Now, neither Magneto nor Magda knew at the time she was pregnant with twins. But Magda wandered to the High Evolutionary's citadel on the Wundagore mountains, which is where he was hanging with his anthropomorphic animal people called the New Men. The cow-headed Bova delivered Magda's twins, and Magda almost immediately left the citadel, wandered into the snow, and disappeared, presumably dying. So now the High Evolutionary had two babies on his hands, and he asked Bova to give them to somebody, and those somebodies ended up being Django and Marya Maximoff. And that's why neither Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch or Magneto knew they were related for quite a while.
A Family Affair
Dear Postmonster General,
If I were Jaime Lannister, that is, if I were a sharp, badass warrior with killer looks to boot, no way would I be getting it on with my sister, even if she is a hot queen. He could have any woman he wanted in all the Seven Kingdoms. Several of them at once, probably. He could probably parlay his skills and looks into becoming a goddamn king if he wanted, or even THE king. But no, he sneaks around with his sister. The only roadblock to his getting married and inheriting lands and title (like Daddy Tywin wants) might be he doesn't want to break his oath as a member of the Kingsguard. But let's be honest, it's all about Cersei and her c-word.
Compare with Tyrion. Tyrion, on the other hand, is fugly as fug, besides being an imp, and he gets lots of Westerosi tail. Granted, he's paying for it, but so what? They're still beautiful women, they seem to enjoy his company, he can afford it and then some, and at least a few of his paid relationships have developed into something more fulfilling. If Tyrion - Tyrion! - can do this well, just think how well Jaime could do! The sky's the limit.
So my question is, why? Given the hassle of sneaking around, given the cultural taboo of incest in Westeros and the biologically ingrained aversion to sex with siblings, and given his other options, why insist - to the detriment of everything else in his life - on still dipping his wick in Cersei? Is it just love? Please help me understand.
It's love. Jaime really loves Cersei, and Cersei definitely loved Jaime, at least prior to Jaime being captured by the Starks. When Jaime finally returns to King's Landing, either in the books or the TV show, Cersei's world has begun falling apart, and between her growing psychosis, the loss of Jaime's hand, and the fact that Cersei feels Jaime abandoned her by going off to fight instead of staying to protect her (and Joffrey) in the first place, well, I think Cersei no longer sees her brother as quite so perfect or strong as he once was.
But if you're asking why their relationship started, I don't think it's too hard to imagine. People always talk about twins having a special, deeper connection than regular siblings, and the idea that this relationship can turn sexual had cropped up several times in fiction, if not reality. Second, remember that while incest is taboo in Westeros, the ruling Targaryens still did it for centuries, so it wasn't quite to culturally appalling that people went to war to stop them from doing it.
But I believe the biggest reason is this: Jaime and Cersei's mother dies giving birth to Tyrion, which leaves Tywin Lannister as their sole parent. How much emotional support do you think he gave them? How much would he have forced the idea that the Lannisters were special and everyone else didn't matter upon them? When do you think Tywin sat them both down and explained the birds and the bees, and, oh, also, try not to fuck each other? Never, that's when.
I imagine Jaime and Cersei grew up so insulated from everything else — socially, emotionally, and possibly physically — that they were pretty much primed to head straight to each other once puberty kicked in. And again, I think there was genuine love behind it. Jaime never whored around because he never had anyone but Cersei, and by the time he had other options, he didn't want anybody else.
Man Vs. Mothra
Dear Mr. Postman
I'm not sure if you've ever specified what kind of apocalypse you've endured or if there have been multiples, but on the off chance that you have encountered and survived a giant monster apocalypse, such as those in Pacific Rim, Godzilla, or Evangelion, I've always been curious what a normal person such as yourself does in situations like that?
I can't think of any recorded stories of the average person having to deal with giant monsters. How does one fight back without heavy armaments or military access? Does it simply become a game of running and staying out of the way of the monster? Is there a way a normal everyday person can fight back against giant monsters?
I appreciate your optimism, but there is nothing a normal person can do against a giant monster, unless by "normal" you still somehow mean "has access to a great many explosives." I suppose if you didn't mind sacrificing yourself for the greater good, you could put on a massive, explosives-laden suicide vest, get eaten, and detonate the vest while you're inside the monster, hopefully inflicting fatal damage to its internal organs, but you're probably not walking away from that. On the other hand, that sounds like the most fucked-up giant monster movie of all time, and now I kind of want to see that.
Fight and Flight
We see Superman in movies, TV and comics as a competent hand-to-hand fighter. My question is how? He was super strong from his youth, so he couldn't have trained against an opponent. Even if he trained using non-contact why would he ever bother learning how to block or defend since he can stop bullets. How would a superhero ever learn to fight without killing a bunch of trainers first?
Well, if Superman really wanted to train, he could. First of all, Superman is pretty good at regulating his superpowers, which is why he doesn't punch his laptop through the Earth's mantle every time he writes an article at the Daily Planet. If Superman wanted to head to Smallville's creepy karate dojo and fight the mustachioed Master Jared, he could theoretically do so without making anyone explode in a fine mist of blood and still actually learn something. Also, remember, Superman is a crazy brilliant inventor with a ton of super-robots wandering around his Fortress of Solitude — he almost certainly has something to train with there.
All that said, I think we can still pretty easily attribute his fighting talent to his super-speed, strength, and a bit of natural talent. If you want to overthink it — and I always do — you could say his ability to move super-fast lets him read his opponents' moves as they happen and react appropriately, while his super-strength means that pretty much any punch is going to be an effective one. Also, the man was born with the ability to fly and shoot laser beams out of his eyes — adding "super good at beating up people" to his list of powers hardly breaks the suspension of disbelief.
[WARNING: SPOILERS FOR CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER AND THE LAST TWO EPISODES OF AGENTS OF SHIELD BELOW]
Since SHIELD is gone, what the hell is going to happen with Agents of SHIELD? Did the show not know what was going to happen in the movie? Is this because they don't think the show is going to get another season? I need to know, especially because Agents of SHIELD is finally getting good enough I'm going to be sad if it gets canceled!
Whoa, whoa there. Calm down. First of all, I think we can safely assume at this point that Agents of SHIELD is getting a second season. Why? Because ABC seems super-close to ordering a 13-episode Agent Carter series which would "bridge the gap" between seasons. I seriously don't think ABC would bother with an Agent Carter show if they were going to cancel Agents of SHIELD, and they also wouldn't be using the term "bridge the gap." Also, like you said, the show has gotten pretty good these last few episodes with all the Captain America tie-in craziness, and I think ABC sees that — and believes the show will finally start bringing new viewers instead of slowly losing old ones.
As for whether they knew what was going to happen: Supposedly, the day after ABC gave the greenlight for Agents of SHIELD, the network and the showrunners got the script for Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. Let me tell you that there's no way this was a coincidence. Marvel almost definitely held back on releasing the script so ABC would order the show, before they revealed that they were destroying SHIELD in Cap 2. This way ABC wouldn't or couldn't say, "What? Why would we order an Agents of SHIELD show if you're destroying SHIELD? No thank you." This put ABC on the hook for the show, and Marvel got to make Cap 2 the way they wanted.
Which means Marvel has a plan. Almost no one in America makes a TV series that's intended to last a single season, and since Marvel knew about SHIELD's future, they clearly have a idea for Agents of SHIELD's future. Here's my guess:
After destroying SHIELD, Nick Fury starts SHIELD back up as a leaner, meaner, spy agency/supernormal threat assessment and what not, of which Agent Coulson and his team lead the vanguard. Now, this would obviously contradict what Fury says in Winter Soldier, but Nick Fury is a liar. I can easily see him destroying SHIELD to effectively purge Hydra from its ranks, and then forming a new SHIELD behind Cap's back.
I also think this because there's no way Marvel is changing the title of the show; SHIELD is almost certainly going to continue in some format. I suppose Coulson could decide his small group is all the SHIELD the world needs, but since Maria Hill and Nick Fury are both scheduled for guest-appearances later on in the season, I think it's safe to say Fury, like Marvel, has a plan.
Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the firstname.lastname@example.org! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!